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One reader does not 'condone any harmful activities such as those alleged to have happened at fraternities.'

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

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Chinese détente

Re Hong Kong Protesters Need Strategic Thinking (Oct. 10): Hong Kong’s political situation is the result of negotiations between two sovereign countries who never seemed to have much regard for the wishes of their subjects. But if the city is to succeed, which China wants dearly, the government and the people of Hong Kong will have to arrive at a mutually acceptable consensus. If they cannot, then people, capital and business will either evaporate or flee to places such as Singapore, where such a consensus prevails.

To prevent such an exodus, the agreement between China and Britain – which calls for Hong Kong’s special status to last until June 30, 2047 – should give way to one between China and the people. But if China holds to the view that there is nothing to negotiate, then it might as well write off Hong Kong’s future from the get-go. This is the message that protesters so far have delivered to Beijing, and the rest of us should admire the courage with which they have done so.

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One thing is for sure: No matter how bad things get for the protesters, it seems no other country will go to bat for them. Indeed, most would likely sell them out in return for a few tons worth of canola sales to China.

The protesters have been dealt a very bad hand; it seems the last thing they should be told is to be more strategic.

Patrick Cowan Toronto

Smoke out

Re Let’s Clear The Air: Vaping Holds Great Promise For Smokers (Opinion, Oct. 5): Contributor Mark Tyndall’s views on the potential benefits of vaping seem to reflect a narrative propagated by the vaping industry.

To me, it is misleading to advance the controversial hypothesis that smokers can easily stop smoking by starting to vape, while downplaying the fact that the number of people newly addicted to nicotine by vaping, including youths, could likely be much larger than the number of smokers that permanently quit tobacco because of it.

Rather than Mr. Tyndall’s suggestion to distinguish between bootleg and reliably sourced vaping products, public-health advocates should be opposing both vaping and smoking. I believe the tobacco industry invests in vaping companies because, one way or another, nicotine addicts become long-term customers, and often until their deaths.

Michael Pollak MD, director of cancer prevention, department of oncology, McGill University; Montreal

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The safest method of delivering nicotine is not vaping, but proven smoking cessation aids such as the patch, gum, lozenges and sprays. If one wants to quit smoking, go to the doctor, not the local vape store.

James Wigmore Toronto

More Meghan

Re Meghan Storms The Castle Of Institutional Racism (Opinion, Oct. 5): The British Empire flourished on a foundation of colonialism. After its collapse, the Empire seemed to have left behind a deep-seated racism toward many of the territories it had embraced.

Britons who feel suspicious of outsiders are often nostalgic for days of glory, and are very sensitive to the possible loss of their position of power. They look dogged in their determination to maintain the status quo. Kudos to Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, for challenging the British establishment – it is not for the faint of heart. The royal couple will need all the support they can get. They have mine.

Barbara Parrott Kingston

Fraternities: Fraught or fiction?

Re Is It Time We Said Goodbye To Fraternities? (Oct. 5): Columnist Gary Mason writes that he never saw the allure of fraternities. I believe if he looked closer, he would see the community service, peer support and campus organization in which many fraternity members engage.

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Recently, I attended an alumni dinner for the University of Alberta fraternity to which I belonged in the late 1960s. Many who attended are distinguished citizens who served Canada in business and various other professions. Many come from blue-collar backgrounds and never wore penny loafers. Instead, they sought membership in a supportive environment during their formative university years.

I found the movie Animal House to be disgusting, not “making frat life ridiculously cool,” as Mr. Mason wrote, and I believe most of my fraternity brothers share that opinion.

In regards to recent news, I do not condone any harmful activities such as those alleged to have happened at fraternities associated with the University of British Columbia; those individuals responsible should be held to account. However, to pass a blanket judgment on all fraternities feels unwarranted and unfair to those honourable men and women who have belonged to one.

Jim MacSween Lambda Chi Alpha, 1967-1970; Sylvan Lake, Alta.

I’m of the same vintage as columnist Gary Mason and, similar to him, had no inclination to join a fraternity during my university years. But that’s where the similarities end.

My wife and I have had two sons join fraternities at the University of British Columbia. For the past four years, we have played host to nearly two-dozen of their brothers at our ranch during study week. We feel we have a better understanding than most parents of the culture and inner workings of the UBC frat system.

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We were pleasantly surprised to witness first-hand their conscientious, kind and inclusive behaviour. We witnessed the results of strict internal review processes: In one case, a member was ousted after his interactions with guests were considered inappropriate (although certainly not extreme in any sense).

Fraternities and sororities at UBC are also composed of a broad cross-section of students, which one would expect at such a diverse school. Despite this, it seems the utterance of “white privilege,” as Mr. Mason references, is often all that is needed to frighten university administrators into taking unnecessary action against a strong social-support network, one that helps so many students who would otherwise feel unsettling loneliness on a campus of tens of thousands.

Frank Killoran Surrey, B.C.


Fraternities at Queen’s University have been banned since 1933. They were never missed. As a graduate of the school, I am grateful to have been spared the presence of hazing, competitive entry and elitism. I would cheer to see all universities follow Queen’s lead.

Willa Henry Kingston

Nineteen eighty-five

Re Scheer And Trudeau Go Beyond The Usual Political Misdirection and A Debate That Was Twitter Come To life (Oct. 9): In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, cultural critic Neil Postman famously argued that the digital mediums we use to communicate and convey information unwittingly shape the substantive content of our discourse.

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Radio, television, internet and, now, smartphones are not simply neutral instruments that politicians can wield without consequences for the quality of their communication. The insult-laden English leaders’ debate was symptomatic of our unhealthy addiction to digital devices and social media.

I long for a return to the relative civility of a print-based culture.

Alec Lalonde Ottawa


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